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Customs seizes $481K worth of crystal meth

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CUSTOMS officers discovered 2.12 pounds of crystal meth in a shipping container from China during a routine inspection on Jan. 15, Customs Director Jose Mafnas said on Thursday.

The substance was concealed in silicon sealant tubes, he added during a press briefing at the governor’s office with Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios, Finance Secretary David DLG Atalig, and the governor’s chief of staff, Angel A. Demapan.

The estimated value of the intercepted drug is about $481,000, Mafnas said, based on the current street value on Saipan, which is $500 per gram.

“It would not have been a successful interception if it wasn’t for the assistance of our law enforcement partners,” Mafnas said as he expressed appreciation to the Drug Enforcement Task Force, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Division of Quarantine, U.S. Homeland Security Investigations and the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Unit.

Mafnas said the consignee of the container is a Chinese national who has been banned from entering the U.S. and its territories.

“The shipper is known to the law enforcement community,” he added.

The shipper, who used to live on Saipan, is now operating in China,” Mafnas said.

Customs Director Jose Mafnas, right, speaks during a media conference on Thursday.  On the table is the plastic bag of crystal meth, which Customs intercepted during a routine inspection at the seaport. Also in the picture are Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios, Chief of Staff Angel Demapan, and Finance Secretary David Atalig.  Photo by Junhan B. Todiño

Through the federal law enforcement, he said, the CNMI will inform the Chinese government about the shipper’s illegal activities in the CNMI.

“I want to send out a message to any drug dealer out there that Customs is not alone at the ports,” he said. “We have so many law enforcement partners, both local and federal.”

Mafnas said Gov. Ralph DLG Torres and Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios always remind him that “it’s better and cheaper to stop the entry of contraband before it could affect the community.”

Atalig expressed his appreciation to the Customs officers for their hard work in protecting the border and intercepting contraband.

“I’m proud of the officers that intercepted [the crystal meth],” the Finance secretary added.

The lt. governor, for his part, said the CNMI community is fully aware of the tragedies caused by the use of illegal drugs such as crystal meth.

“We still deal with them today and they include families that have broken up,” Palacios added.

He also said addressing the CNMI’s drug problem is one of the governor’s major goals.

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